- The Washington Times - Friday, January 9, 2009

UNITED NATIONS

The U.N. Security Council on Thursday night called for “an immediate, durable, fully respected cease-fire” in the Gaza Strip, leading to the eventual withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Palestinian territory.

The U.S. abstained from the 14-0 vote, the only council member not to back the resolution. But the U.S. did not veto Resolution 1860, which it helped hash out in three days of arduous negotiations with Arab nations with ties to Hamas and the other two Western nations with Security Council vetoes - France and Britain.

Neither Hamas nor Israel is a party to the resolution.

The measure also calls for “the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment” and says the parties should assist in “creating and opening humanitarian corridors and other mechanisms for the sustained delivery of humanitarian aid.”

The resolution “condemns all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism” and applauded Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s invitation for Israeli and Hamas leaders to come to Cairo for negotiations on a truce and securing the borders of the Palestinian enclave.

Earlier Thursday, the main U.N. relief agency in Gaza suspended operations, saying Israeli tanks fired on at least two convoys with relief supplies and an ambulance, killing a driver. Israeli forces entered Gaza on Saturday night.

The International Red Cross also suspended relief efforts for at least a day, saying one of its ambulances came under fire at a border crossing. Israel said it was investigating.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency ordered several hundred staffers to their homes, temporarily shutting down its network that supplies food and runs dozens of schools and clinics in Gaza.

“These are shocking incidents today,” said John Holmes, the head of U.N. humanitarian operations. He said all U.N. vehicles were clearly marked and that all movements had been cleared in advance by the Israeli army.

Three rockets fired at Israel from south Lebanon raised the prospect of a two-front war. The militant Hezbollah group, which waged a 34-day war with Israel in 2006, denied it was responsible.

For the second day in a row, Israel declared a three-hour pause in fighting to allow Gazans to collect food, drinking water and other supplies.

Israeli diplomats also flew to Cairo to discuss opening Egyptian border crossings to evacuate Gaza’s wounded and import relief supplies. Israeli police reported Gaza militants fired 24 rockets at Israel, injuring four, according to the Associated Press.

About three dozen bodies were found beneath the rubble of bombed buildings in Gaza City during the pause. At least 750 Palestinians and 12 Israelis have been killed since the Israeli offensive began Dec. 27.

In Jerusalem, the Israeli government spelled out its conditions for a cease-fire.

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